Politics Blinds Us to Pesky Facts: Study
Ezra Klein examines the intellectual abyss of partisanship
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Apr 7, 2014 12:11 PM CDT
Updated Apr 7, 2014 1:57 PM CDT
A blindfolded puppet is seen at an anti-war protest on the National Mall, Jan. 27, 2007.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Politicians devote a lot of energy to what Ezra Klein calls the "More Information Hypothesis," the theory that voters would agree with them if they understood the issues better. But a 2013 study suggests that's not true, Klein points out at his launched-last-night site Vox. Researchers first polled the participants on their political ideologies and tested their math skills using a word problem about skin cream. Then they gave them some more word problems, about gun control and climate change. The result: Respondents were drastically more likely to arrive at the right answer if they agreed with it politically, and vice versa—and being better at math actually exacerbated their likelihood of getting it right or wrong depending on their political sensibilities.

The authors theorize that "humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth," like "ensuring they don’t piss off the leaders of their tribe," Klein explains. If Sean Hannity changed his mind about climate change tomorrow, it would have profound personal costs. "He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job." He's incentivized to use his intellect to reinforce the ideology he socially identifies with—and to a lesser extent, that's true of almost everyone. Washington has made this easy; our two parties (or "tribes," per Klein) have developed "their own machines for generating evidence and their own enforcers of orthodoxy. It's a perfect storm for making smart people very stupid." Click for Klein's full column.

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Showing 3 of 86 comments
Chris Farley
Apr 9, 2014 12:49 PM CDT
OK. great article and spot on. With both sides of the left right control paradime. But reading through the comments full of the same Left vs. Right dogma is interesting to say the least. It almost gives us a small picture of why this country is so messed up as people vote for the leaders.
ddhartma
Apr 8, 2014 10:29 AM CDT
When did we morph into a nation of such single-mindedness that we can only view each other as either Republican or Democrat (or Conservative versus Liberal)? Aren't we really a nation of individuals, capable of viewing and understanding the subtleties and nuances of those individuals running for office? Don't we each have the capability to be at least a little of both Conservative and Liberal? And although I may not be as conservative as some, I am also not as liberal as others. I have always voted for the individual based on their political stand as it relates to my worldview (and yes, more times than not I have voted Republican - but NEVER a straight ticket). But, over the past decade I have grown fed up with the crass partisanship that the party leaders (both sides of the aisle) have demonstrated (to the point where it has damaged our country). I said before, and I repeat today: It is passed time for a real third-party that can represent the common American (all races, all colors, and all sexes). Our nation was founded on the premise that the government was to "represent" the people, with "the people" being the authority - not the government. When are we going to take charge again, and take responsibility for our lives? I am an individual! Not a Republican, Democrat, or any other box you want to put me in.
cornelison
Apr 8, 2014 6:26 AM CDT
I'd vote for a conservative if he/she made any sense. Today's conservatives are killing the middle class. Why would I vote to give some greedy billionaire everything I've earned because no amount of money is ever enough him?